Monday, September 7, 2015

Love and rainbows

published at The Standard 29 June 2015
On Facebook these days, many people’s profile pictures are shaded with the colors of the rainbow.
This expresses their oneness with the United States Supreme Court’s decision to make same-sex marriages legal anywhere in the US.
It was a close decision among the judges, 5-4, but in the end the Court, through Justice Anthony Kennedy, said that: the right to personal choice regarding marriage is inherent in the concept of individual autonomy, the right to marry is fundamental because it supports a two-person union unlike any other in its importance to the committed individuals, the right to marry safeguards children and families and thus draws meaning from related rights of childrearing, procreation and education, and that marriage is a keystone of the nation’s social order.
Kennedy adds: “The nature of marriage is that, through its enduring bond, two persons can together find other freedoms such as expression, intimacy and spirituality...this is true for all persons whatever their sexual orientation.”
Just as many rejoiced the landmark ruling, however many too decried what the decision, harping on its immorality and contrariness to what is deemed natural, i.e., heterosexual relationships.
It’s a moral and legal issue, but lest we forget, same-sex marriage is, at its core, deeply personal.
* * *
What is compelling about this landmark decision is the story behind the case that set it off. In the end, it is just another love story with a bittersweet ending.
Two men, Jim Obergefell and John Arthur, had been in a relationship for years. They had long wanted to get married – they had been together for two decades – but could not do it in Cincinnato, Ohio where they lived. At that time, there were only a few states that allowed same-sex marriages.
Arthur was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, in 2011. This was a neurological disease, often fatal, that paralyzed its victim. Finally, they decided that they would marry in Baltimore. The couple was accompanied by two pilots, a nurse and Arthur’s aunt who officiated the wedding. They did not even get off the plane: it just landed on the tarmac of Baltimore-Washington International Airport. The ceremony was performed, and soon they were airborne again, already husbands to each other.
Arthur died three months later. And all Obergefell wanted was to be listed as husband on his death certificate. First, a judge said he could. And then a higher court reversed it, listing Arthur as single. But now the Supreme Court has spoken and has done so for all 50 states of the US.
Meanwhile, Obergefell is alone.
* * *
For us here in the Philippines, what does it all mean?
In our society, same-sex relationships are more to be tolerated than recognized. The Catholic Church, to which a majority of Filipinos belong, is clearly against legal recognition of same-sex unions.  Even the most recent Standard Poll survey showed that Filipinos nationwide disagreed with passing a law that would allow such, with 70 percent strongly disagreeing and 14 percent somewhat disagreeing.
Opposition is strongest in Northern and Central Luzon, the survey found, with 92 percent disagreeing. Eighty-seven percent of residents of rural areas, and 80 percent of those from urban communities, would reject a measure. Even in age, 81 percent of younger respondents would reject the measure, not a far cry from 85 percent of their older counterparts who would. 
Given these, we cannot really expect our government to join the rainbow movement soon. In fact, the Palace said that the Philippines would not recognize the marriage of same-sex marriages even if the parties were wed in the US or in other states where it is legal.
“If there are such proposals, these must first be approved by Congress,” spokesman Herminio Coloma said. Then again, it’s not likely Congress would make this a priority – not now, not anytime soon.
But how could lawmakers make this leap when they have not even seen the need to legalize divorce here despite glaring loopholes in the provisions of the Family Code allowing legal separation, annulment and declaration of nullity?
* * *
Still, the rainbow signs are most welcome. All struggles did not progress overnight, or in the span of a few years. The fight for legality of same-sex marriages will be an especially long one here where it concerns us. Nonetheless, this is a first step towards recognizing that love, and the desire to make that love “official” through marriage, is not confined to convention. This first step is a big step.
We may know a couple or two in same-sex unions who are as happy and committed to each other as heterosexual couples are. We are happy for them for what they have. Their individual stories – struggles and triumphs –all deserve to be told.
It’s love, plain and simple, and everything that comes with it. What is there that must not be celebrated?

adellechua@gmail.com

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